Wonderland Express chugs into the Chicago Botanic Garden this holiday season and transforms the 385-acre oasis into a winter wonderland of twinkling lights, garden-scale trains, miniature Chicago landmarks, exquisite horticulture displays and indoor snowfall.
This popular holiday exhibition runs from Nov. 27, 2009 through Jan. 3, 2010 and features new landmarks and fun outdoor winter activities including ice skating on the Esplanade and snowshoeing in McDonald Woods.
Held in the Regenstein Center, Wonderland Express features garden-scale trains winding their way over bridges, under trestles, past waterfalls and detailed landscapes with more than 80 miniature versions of Chicagos favorite landmarks.
New this year is the Union Stockyards Old Stone Gate, President Barack Obamas Hyde Park home and Michelle Obamas childhood home. Interpretive signs sprinkled throughout the exhibition give fun facts about Chicago’s history and architecture.
Realistic snow falls throughout the exhibition.
Made from all-natural materials, the Old Stone Gate is crafted out of walnut shells, poppy seeds and beech bark, and is topped off with magnolia leaves, pine cone scales, and leaves from a burning bush. The Gates iconic cow head, situated in the center of the Gate, is made from gourd seeds, peppercorns and sycamore leaf stems.
The front of the Obamas Hyde Park home is layered with white pine bark and catalpa beans, which gives the illusion of a brick facade. Miniature flower pots made out of burr oak caps and acorns rest upon the front steps that are fashioned out of palm stems and sea grape leaves.
The homes front porch is constructed out of Chinese honeysuckle, eucalyptus leaves, okra seeds, and magnolia and lotus pod stems. The bricks in Michelle Obamas childhood home are actually pine tree bark and the dormers are crafted out of redbud seed pods.
Returning this year are visitor favorites including Navy Pier, Soldier Field, Millennium Park and the Shedd Aquarium.
The experience starts outdoors, where the Garden grounds have been transformed into a grand winter wonderland of trees and shrubs, dramatically-lit with over 750,000 energy-efficient LED lights.
This year, the Garden is reusing approximately fifty-percent of the outdoor LED lights from last year which cuts down on cost and refuse.
The esplanade features a 40-foot tree, lit with multi-colored lights, surrounded by large lit spheres that appear to be ornaments fallen from the tree.
Indoors, the Regenstein Center is a magical wonderland of trains, plants and architecture. The Greenhouses are specially lit, including the palm tree trunks in the South Greenhouse, and decorated with beautiful holiday plants.
Gracing the walls of the Greenhouse Galleries are wreaths designed by area florists, shops and the Garden’s own talented horticulturists. Decking the Joutras Gallery are holiday trees decorated by local designers and a gingerbread train depot.
The Bridge Gallery features behind-the-scenes photographs of the exhibition designers, Paul Busse and Applied Imagination, Alexandria, Ky., creating the landmarks in their workshop.
The Krehbiel Gallery features an English country train platform with an old-world feel, including more trains and landmarks found on Chicago’s North Shore. A slide show chronicling the construction of the exhibition is shown in the Alsdorf Auditorium for those who don’t want to end the journey just yet.
Visitors can enjoy a light lunch, snack or dinner at the Caboose Caf in Burnstein Hall or in the Garden Caf. The Garden Shop features an array of extraordinary gifts, including a book on Wonderland Express, amidst the exquisite holiday dcor during exhibition hours.
Ice Skating and Snowshoeing
For the first time at the Chicago Botanic Garden there will be ice skating and snowshoeing activities during Wonderland Express.
Starting Nov. 27, 2009 through Jan. 31, 2010, the Esplanade will be transformed into an ice rink (weather permitting) and visitors are encouraged to display their best ice skating moves amongst the Gardens snowy backdrop.
Ice skating hours during Wonderland Express are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, Jan. 9 through 31, 2010 plus on Monday, Jan. 18. Cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3-12. Members save $1. Visitors must bring their own skates.
If lacing up skates in not your thing, then lace up your snowshoes and take advantage of the serene McDonald Woods in winter (weather permitting) during daylight hours only.
Upon entering the Garden, visitors will be supplied with a snowshoeing route map of the Woods. There is no cost to explore McDonald Woods on snowshoes which begins on Nov. 27, 2009 through Mar. 31, 2010. Visitors must bring their own snow shoes.
Wonderland Express/Ice Skating combination tickets are available for purchase. Cost is $12.50 for adults and $9.50 for children ages 3-12. Members save $2.50.
Visit chicagobotanic.org/skate for more information and daily ice conditions.
Other special events include Christmas Breakfast with Santa, Christmas Supper with Santa, Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus, and a Hanukkah Dinner.
Christmas Breakfast with Santa is from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20, and includes a buffet breakfast, visit with Santa and exhibition viewing before public hours.
Christmas Supper with Santa is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 and 22, and includes a buffet dinner, visit with Santa and exhibition viewing after public hours. Hot Chocolate with Mrs. Claus is at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 21 and 22 in the Linnaeus and Fairchild Rooms.
A Hanukkah Dinner will be held on Sunday, Dec. 13 at a family-friendly time of 4:30 p.m. and a more adult-friendly time of 7 p.m. and features a buffet dinner, 6 p.m. concert by the Spirit Orchestra featuring Randi Simon and Bernie Warman, and exhibition viewing after public hours.
Tickets for these special events will be available to members only from October 19 through November 5 online and onsite at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center.
Starting Nov. 6, special event tickets will be available to the general public.
Visit chicagobotanic.org/wonderland for more information, ticket pricing and to order tickets.
“Winter Wonders, a family drop-in activity that is free for ticket holders, will be held in Burnstein Hall from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 27, Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 28 through Dec. 5.
From Sunday, Dec. 6 through Sunday, Dec. 20 activity hours are from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from Monday, Dec. 21 through Sunday, Jan. 3 (closed at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24 and all day Dec. 25).
There are no activities on Dec. 13. Station-based, hands-on activities include exploring snowflakes, conifer branches and cones, making bird feeders with natural materials and more.
There will be special drop in activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, Dec. 1, 8 and 15 for families with children ages 2-5. Children will learn about snow, animals in winter and much more through hands-on activities after visiting the Wonderland Express exhibition.
Families can explore all the different plants and plant parts needed to make gingerbread people during the Weekend Family Class, “Joyful Gingerbread,” on Saturdays, Dec. 12 and 19.
Children can take home a ginger plant, decorate cookies, and mix up a batch of gingerbread to bake at home. Classes are from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. or from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Classroom.
Programs are designed for families with children ages 4-10. Fees per class are $20 for children; Chicago Botanic Garden members pay $17 for children.
Accompanying adults are free and required; limit of three children per adult. Parking fee is waived for program participants. Registration is required at least one week in advance and is available online or via mail.
For more information, visit chicagobotanic.org/forfamilies.
Wonderland Express hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Nov. 27 through Jan. 3, 2010 (closed at 3 p.m. on Dec. 3 and 24 and all day Dec. 25).
Exhibition tickets are available for the general public on Oct. 19 onsite at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center and online at chicagobotanic.org/wonderland. Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62+). Members pay $8 for adults and $6 for children (ages 3-12) and seniors (62+).
Admission to Wonderland Express on Tuesdays through Dec. 23 is free. All ticket purchases are timed for entry. Parking is $20 per car; free for Garden members.
Wonderland Express is sponsored by ComEd and Harris Bank. Free Tuesdays are sponsored by Grainger. Additional support has been provided by the Lake Forest Country Day School.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is particularly proud to be partnering with ComEd in the use of all energy-efficient LED lighting for Wonderland Express.
For more information on Wonderland Express, call (847) 835-5440, or visit the Gardens Web site at chicagobotanic.org/wonderland.
Editors, please note: The Chicago Botanic Garden’s newsroom is online at chicagobotanic.org/pr. For digital images, contact Julie McCaffrey at (847) 835-8213 or at [email protected].
About the Chicago Botanic Garden
The Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the green treasures of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, is a 385-acre living plant museum featuring 24 distinct display gardens surrounded by lakes, as well as a prairie and woodlands.
With events, programs and activities for all ages, the Garden is open every day of the year, except Dec. 25. Admission is free; select event fees apply. Parking is $20 per car; free for Garden members.
The Garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, Ill.
Visit chicagobotanic.org, or call (847) 835-5440 for seasonal hours, images of the Garden and commuter transportation information.&/
Source: Chicago Press Release